Frank Spaeth had a running joke with former Rochester Youth Soccer Association co-worker Chris Belcher.
“I used to tell him that he and I were both introverts but that I did a much better job of hiding it,” Spaeth said.
Spaeth was not and is not an introvert. Belcher, who worked as the RYSA’s director of player development, truly was introverted.
“There were weekends when he’d go home from work and not interact with a single person the entire time,” Spaeth said. “We’d joke about that with him on Mondays.”
Spaeth, like another former RYSA colleague, Neil Cassidy, had a deep affection for Belcher. That affection has made the last few days hard. On Thursday, Belcher died of a sudden heart attack while living in England. Fittingly, he was setting up for a soccer practice when it happened. Belcher was believed to be in his early 60s.
Spaeth, the former executive director of the RYSA, and Cassidy, its former director of coaching, take consolation in knowing that Belcher died while immersed in something he loved — soccer.
But they’re both longing for the days when they were around him, sharing the joy that soccer gave all three of them.
“I’m going to miss him,” said Cassidy, who like Belcher was from England. “When he was around soccer, there was something in his eyes. He was just lit up. That was a gift that he gave to everyone in his life.”
Spaeth, who guessed that Belcher lived in the United States about 10 years before going back to England in 2007, considered his gentle nature to be his greatest strength.
He took advantage of that especially when coaching youth players.
Belcher knew the game, but also had just the right touch in teaching it.
“The way he approached things was very gentle and even keeled,” Spaeth said. “You typically knew what you were going to get from Chris. There were no wild swings from him. He was just very steady.”
Cassidy saw the same things from Belcher, that he had an easy way about him with kids and that he knew how to get the most out of them.
And there was one more trait of Belcher’s that drew kids in. That was his memory.
“He knew every one of those kids by their names,” Cassidy. “He had a fantastic memory. He could just look at someone once and remember their name.”